The Ordeal of Alexander Aan

I’ve been going on a bit lately about the Knox case and the mistakes that led to her and her former boyfriend’s becoming unwilling cast members in the world’s longest running legal farce. But its important to remember that there are two categories of wrongful imprisonment: the imprisonment of those falsely accused of committing real crimes, and the imprisonment of those who did things no decently run country would consider a crime.

Take the case of Alexander Aan, an Indonesian civil servant who was just released after serving 18 months of a 30 month sentence for posting on Facebook that he doesn’t believe in God. From the Center for Inquiry:

In January 2012, Aan was attacked at his workplace by an angry mob over posts he made on Facebook about his atheism, as well as cartoons he shared that were critical of Islamic prophet Muhammad. When police arrived, they arrested Aan and charged him with blasphemy, promoting atheism, lying on an official government document (Indonesia requires its citizens to claim one of six official religion; Aan marked Islam), and disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hatred or hostility. In June 2012, a district court found Aan guilty of disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hatred or hostility, and sentenced him to 30 months in prison. He was also fined 100 million rupiah (US $8,190).

Aan is still not completely free, but rather on the Indonesian version of parole. He’s also vulnerable to further mob and vigilante attacks. (There have been calls for his beheading.) That he was prosecuted at all is a searing indictment of Indonesia’s legal and political systems. Ironically, it’s the clause of the Indonesian constitution meant to guarantee freedom of religion that’s been used as justification for the jailing of atheists.

Indonesia has come some distance toward becoming a democratic state since the fall of the murderous and corrupt Suharto regime. That Aan still faces persecution, whether in or out of the Indonesian prison system, shows that the country still has a long way to go.

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